Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Iraq: Unity in adversity," Feb. 12, 2005

Triple threat

Purple cars must be popular in Bismarck, N.D., or at least one is. Bismarck police say a man there had his dark purple Ford stolen three times within one six-day period. The first theft occurred on Jan. 20. The car was found on Jan. 25 and returned to its owner, only to be stolen again within a few hours. Police recovered the vehicle on Jan. 26, but it was again stolen that same day. The owner, whom police did not identify, said he left no keys inside the car and locked it prior to each theft. Police say they have no suspects.

Clothes call

No one has ever mistaken Dick Cheney for a fashion model, but fashion critics were aghast when the vice president showed up at a solemn Jan. 27 commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz in a massive green parka, boots, and a ski cap. Surrounded by heads of state in black, Mr. Cheney wore an outfit described by Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan as "the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower."

Slow burn

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What does a 4-million-pound manure fire smell like? "I guess it's just all perspective," says David Dickinson, a Nebraska rancher and owner of a manure bonfire that started almost three months ago. "To me, it just smells like smoke." Mr. Dickenson's feedlot fattens as many as 12,000 cows at a time and the manure pile that they produced measures 100 feet long, 30 feet high, and 50 feet wide.

The pile most likely ignited from heat produced by the decomposing manure itself, and the fire has defied several attempts by firefighters and others to extinguish it. Wilma Roth operates a restaurant about a mile away and says it smells worse than mere smoke: "I'd just as soon forget about it."

Healthy thieves

Maybe a couple of thieves in West Virginia were just going through nicotine withdrawals. The duo raided four West Virginia Wal-Marts on Jan. 27 but decided not to steal televisions, clothes, or cash. Their loot: $30,000 worth of nicotine patches and diabetes testing strips. The testing strips cost $70 perpackage while the boxes of nicotine patches start at $40.

Smart move

Apparently some parents are hesitant to have their children become Dummer students. Over the objections of some alumni, officials at Governor Dummer Academy in Newbury, Mass., decided in December to change the boarding school's name because the current one hurts recruiting efforts. The school opened in 1763 and has always carried the name of Massachusetts Gov. William Dummer, but "rightly or wrongly," said Headmaster John Doggett, "first impressions make a difference." The board of trustees will choose a new name in May.

Record collector

Ashrita Furman of New York probably has the record for holding strange world records. Last month he set his 92nd record (20 are still current) since 1979 by bouncing a mile on a Space Hopper in 15 minutes and 3 seconds. Mr. Furman also holds records for long-distance somersaulting (12 miles) and most pint glasses balanced on a chin (75), among others. He accomplished his latest record on a track on the Great Wall of China.

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